Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/51

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discontented. Bligh's scrupulousness was treated with extreme dryness by the Colonial Office, and he was instructed to comply with the private agreements already before him.[1] Another important complaint was that lodged with the Commander-in-Chief by Major Johnston, and referred to the Colonial Office in June, 1808.[2] This letter dealt in detail with the Governor's harsh, arbitrary and abusive behaviour towards the military, and his occasional interference with the orders of their commanding officer.

But of many troubles the Colonial Office were informed by Bligh's accounts alone. More absorbing than all the rest were the tortuous windings of his quarrels with John Macarthur, that turbulent spirit who had been at daggers drawn with each succeeding governor, and who as agriculturist, merchant and trader stood head and shoulders above the rest of the colonists. Bligh, who had been warned of the temper and the guile of this "Botany Bay perturbator," as Governor King called him, was foolish enough to treat him with insulting lack of courtesy from the outset, and in the case of Bligh alone did Macarthur and not Macarthur's opponent have public opinion behind him.

The Home Government, long accustomed to these quarrels, were not much disturbed, and it was probably thought natural that some friction should arise between the military forces and the naval officer whom it was then thought fit to have at the head of the Colony. The responsible Minister may well have hoped to maintain Bligh's government undisturbed, supporting him against his turbulent subject, while admonishing him to adopt a more conciliatory tone towards the soldiery. At that moment, indeed. Lord Castlereagh and his Under-Secretary Edward Cooke, who were responsible for the administration of what was then the one Department of War and the Colonies,[3]

had good reason to wish that New South Wales should remain

  1. Castlereagh to Bligh, 31st December, 1807. H.R., VI., p. 399.
  2. Johnston to Lieut.-Colonel Gordon, Military Secretary to Commander-in Chief, 8th October, 1807. H.R., VI., p. 652. Sent to Colonial Office, 13th June, 1808.
  3. In 1794 "Mr. Dundas (afterwards Lord Melville), who was then Secretary of State dealing with the Home affairs of the Department, was appointed 'Secretary for War,' and also nominally Secretary of State for the Colonies, but the Departments of War and the Colonies were not actually united until 1801, when Lord Hobart was created Secretary of State for the War and Colonial Department." Colonial Office List, p. xi.